air conditioning maintenance

once a pricey optional extra, air conditioning is now virtually a standard feature on most new vehicles.

As we all know, air conditioning, with its controlled, in-car ambient temperature, can help motorists stay cool, comfortable and alert at the wheel, throughout the year, reducing driver error caused by fatigue or frustration. Aiding efficient demisting of windows, it also gives drivers a clearer view of the road, potentially reducing the risk of accidents due to poor vision.

It's worth noting that your vehicle's air-conditioning system can harbour waterborne bacteria if not regularly maintained. These can not only create an unpleasant stale smell inside your car but be harmful to your health once inhaled when you switch on your air-conditioning unit. Possible signs may include light flu-type symptoms.

Not regularly servicing the air-con system could mean that it fails in the heat of the summer. Repairs usually turn out to be a lot more expensive than a service, and as with most things, prevention is always better than the cure.

While most vehicles are now fitted with air-conditioning as standard, the system is rarely included in the manufacturer's servicing schedule. Unless air conditioning systems are serviced correctly - by specially trained and fully qualified technicians - with the pressurised refrigerants and lubricants inside safely filtered, cleansed, recycled and reinstated for optimum output, strain on the compressors driving them can increase the load on the engine. This in turn can cause premature wear and tear leading to reduced vehicle performance, increased fuel consumption and higher vehicle emissions.

Servicing in this area is a specialist job, not least because of the environmental, health and safety issues involved. Air conditioning systems hold potentially hazardous waste in the form of HFC's - hydrofluorocarbons. These are gases that, while accepted by Government as the good practice alternative to CFC's, should not be released into the atmosphere.

With the right servicing equipment and qualified operator, HFCs can be recycled safely and efficiently, for use over and over again during the lifetime of an air conditioning unit which will then do the job it was designed for, without dragging down the overall performance of your car.

To avoid reduced performance, bigger fuel bills and future, costly repairs, experts advise specialised servicing of air conditioning units. Depending on use - the more frequently air conditioning is turned on, the less frequent the servicing requirement. However, a professional "Air Con Health Check" is recommended every one to three years.

Make sure that your vehicle's air conditioning system is working efficiently in time for your family's summer break. Many local garages and main dealers have trained technicians able to offer experience in the field of vehicle air-conditioning maintenance. Many can change poly-filters, disinfect the system using anti-bacterial treatments and re-gas your vehicle's air conditioning unit. In some instances, operators offer this service at low cost through their promotional activities to raise customer numbers.

So why not check out the deals currently available at your local garages, main dealers and specialist workshops to ensure that your vehicle's air conditioning system is working efficiently in time for the arrival of the hot summer weather.